Paramilitaries Guarding Canadian Mine Shoot Protestors in Philippines

Paramilitaries guarding a mine development owned by TVI Resources, a Canadian mining company, opened fire on a peaceful blockade at 5 pm today, wounding four.

A report from Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, filed by the Diocesan Committee today states that large numbers of Special (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit CAFGU) Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) of TVI Resource Development Philippines (TVI), a Calgary-based mining firm, stormed and surrounded the protesters at around 5:00 pm and fired automatic rifles into the group.

The protestors were on a road leading to the minesite at Canatuan, 3 kilometers from the town of Siocon and 20 kilometers from the proposed mine. The farmers, Subanon indigenous people, fisher folk, fishpond operators and a church group started the barricade on March 14 at around 4 pm. All are members of a multi-sectoral group organized in Zamboanga del Norte called “Save the Paradise and Watershed” movement.

They are trying to stop the building of an open pit heap leach gold mine in the mountains above the town of Siocon. The mine is on land belonging to the Subanon indigenous people and has been hotly disputed since its inception.

The SCAA troop was led by a Retired Col. Edang, a TVI SCAA commander. The SCAA is employed by TVI to guard their site.

Four of the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Wounded were: Subanon Chieftain Macario Salacao, President of the Siocon Federation of Subanon Tribal Council (SFSTC) Edie Cayabyab, and supporters, Juan Veloria and Dakbot Lorete.

The Mayor of the Town of Siocon downstream of the mine has been seeking an injunction to stop it. In 2002, the Municipal Council of Siocon passed a resolution banning any form of environmental destruction, especially large-scale mining.

The four wounded were brought to the Siocon Emergency Hospital for treatment. One of them has a bullet lodged in his knee.

The protesters say they are invoking their constitutional rights to block TVI equipment, because TVI has failed to get social acceptability from the local government of Siocon, from the Indigenous People, the Subanon, who hold a legal and legitimate Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADT), and from the other local governments. On September 2003, during the environmental forum sponsored by the local government unit through the Department of Interior and Local Government in partnership with DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, a declaration was passed banning any form of environmental destruction and signed by 181 barangay officials from all over Siocon.

The protestors are demanding that the government cancel TVI’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) and order the company to vacate the area without conditions. The Save Paradise movement is calling on all concerned people to support their demand to cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of the company and to instead support improved agriculture in the area.

For more information contact
Tito Natividad Fiel, Coordinator, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, G/F, Diocesan Pastoral Center, Sicayab, Dipolog City, tel/fax: (065) 212-3678, e-mail [email protected]
Joan Kuyek, National Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, tel. +1-613-569-3439, e-mail [email protected]